lifestyle

Here's A 7D6N Itinerary For These Lesser Known & Underrated Cities In South Korea

One word - Alpacas.

Cover image via Danial Martinus & Zi Peng | Edited by SAYS

Last month, our friends at AirAsia X took us on an amazing, fun-filled adventure to South Korea

In collaboration with Incheon Tourism Organization and Gangwon Province Tourism, we did some pretty cool activities during our stay. Lasting eight days, we traveled through the metropolitan city of Incheon and explored the vast natural beauty of Gangwon Province.

To say the trip was fun is a severe understatement. We got to experience seven full days of jam-packed excitement, thrill, and relaxation!

This was our 7D6N itinerary:

Day 1 - Incheon, South Korea

Zooming down Asia's largest luge track at Mega Luge in Ganghwa Seaside Resort

Waiting eagerly to speed down the luge circuit at Ganghwa Seaside Resort. :D

Image via Ariff Sopian | AirAsia

After landing at Incheon International Airport, we headed straight to our first activity of the trip - Mega Luge at Ganghwa Seaside Resort

Featuring the largest luge circuit in Asia, Mega Luge is definitely a stop to make when you fly to Incheon.

In order to reach Mega Luge, you've gotta take a short cable car ride up the hill. This won't break the bank, and you'll definitely get some super pretty views on your way up! The journey from Incheon International Airport will take you around two hours by bus, but the thrill you'll be experiencing at Mega Luge is totally worth it. 

Even though you're not allowed to film or photograph your journey down the luge circuit (for safety reasons), there are multiple 'Photo Zones' along the track. Once you reach the bottom, you can choose to purchase a photo of your journey and forever immortalise whatever unglam face* you made as you raced toward the end! ;D

*I was so excited to purchase my photo, only to realise I looked like the Grinch.

There are two tracks to choose from - fast (5-6 minute journey) and slow (9-10 minute journey). If you want to take it easy and enjoy the cool mountain air, it's highly suggested that you take the slow track. If you're looking for that insane adrenaline rush, we don't need to tell you which track to take. ;)

Here are the details:
Opening hours: Summer - 9am to 9pm, Winter - 9am - 6pm
Address: 4-15, Seondu-ri, Gilsang-myeon, Ganghwa-gun, Incheon
Admission: 12,000 Won (~RM43) for individuals & 11,000 Won (~RM40) per person in a group of 20

Click here for more details.

 

Learning about the production of pure cotton at the Sochang Experience Center

Cotton was a ubiquitous material when it came to Korean clothing in the 50s and 60s. Sochang cotton as it's known, was hailed as the highest quality cotton one could get, due largely in part to its level of purity.

The Sochang Experience Center is a stop for those who want to gain an appreciation for the once-booming textile industry in Ganghwa. Since the development of newer, stronger materials, the Songcha cotton industry slowly declined, leaving only 10 factories still producing the pure cotton today. Not only is it rare, it's a specialised craft as well. 

You can also come to the Sochang Experience Center for other relaxing activities, like taking part in a traditional tea ceremony and decorating your very own Sochang cotton handkerchief.

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm daily
Address: 8, Nammunan-gil 20beon-gil, Ganghwa-eup, Ganghwa-gun, Incheon
Admission: Free

 

Getting lost in Joyangbangjik Cafe, a former-textile-factory-turned-coffee-shop

Located in Ganghwa, Joyangbangjik Café was built in 1933 and served as one of the largest textile factories in the city. Following the decline of the textile industry, the factory closed down.

Earlier this year, it reopened as a café, gallery, and art space. You can even find old antiques of all kinds here, like pool tables, rotary telephones, vintage toys, leather barber chairs, and much more scattered throughout the premises.

Other than the coffee (which was great, by the way), I tried out their famous carrot cake. It was so moist, with just the right amount of sugar. A damn good treat for sure.

You won't just find cool trinkets on the inside. Step outside of the café and you'll be greeted by a tonne of other old and rustic ephemera, like vintage table setups, telephone booths, and even an old tractor. 

It truly is great to see an old, historical landmark given new life. The Joyangbangjik Café is one of the most unique places you'll ever come across, and is definitely a must-see.

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 11am to 9pm daily
Address: 12 Hyangnamu-gil 5 beon-gil, Ganghwa-eup, Ganghwa-gun, Incheon
Admission: Free, but you gotta pay for coffee of course!

Day 2 - Incheon, South Korea

Ditching a map in Chinatown

I bet you're wondering why the heck I'm telling you to visit Chinatown in Korea. It's simple, really - awesome photos and delicious food.

Lined with various eateries offering both Chinese and Korean fare, you're going to find it difficult to stop eating, seriously. To add to that, Incheon's Chinatown is the birthplace of jjajangmyeona hugely popular noodle dish. I can't stop drooling.

The main entrance to Chinatown is an awesome photo opportunity in itself, especially when you have less people (usually in the morning) crowding up the shot. In addition to the traditional food stalls and restaurants, you'll find a lot of souvenir shops, places selling cute socks, and cozy little cafés strewn about the area. 

I recommend ditching a map and just going where your nose and eyes take you. It's pretty hard to get lost here, since the area is laid out in a grid system. You'll find cute surprises when you venture into tiny alleyways, like bright and colourful houses (pictured above) and even antique stores.

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 24/7
Address: Gaho-dong, Jung-gu, Incheon
Admission: Free, if you don't get any food or souvenirs ;)

 

Feeling like a kid again at the Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village

Tiny fishies!

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

Just a four-minute bus ride from Chinatown, the Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village is one of the hottest photo spots in Incheon, due to the amount of colourful houses there, along with mural depictions of various fairy tales.

It was originally a booming neighbourhood back then, but as the residents grew older, and as the younger ones moved out, it slowly started to lose its appeal.

That is, until the government decided to give new life to the place by having artists decorate the entire neighbourhood with murals and quirky statues.

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 24/7
Address: Ayugongwonseo-ro 45beon-gil, Songwol-dong 3(sam)-ga, Jung-gu, Incheon
Admission: Free

 

Taking a nice stroll through Wolmido (Wolmi Island)

Though not technically an island, Wolmido is a super sweet tourist enclave lined with lots of restaurants serving up delicious, fresh-caught seafood. You can also catch the Wolmi Sea Train, which is a two-car train that runs on a 6.1km track. It's called a 'Sea Train' because the track itself straddles the coast line of Wolmido, with one side facing the sea.

Corndogs, yum. :P

Image via Ariff Sopian | AirAsia

Wolmido is the perfect place to just sit back in a nice coffee shop and people-watch. With your typical carnival-type atmosphere, it's also a great place to bring the kids to.

I recommend having lunch at any of the seafood restaurants there, because the food is guaranteed fresh. If you're up for a snack, there are a ton of street food stalls scattered about just so you can satiate that craving of yours after watching a mukbang video (lol). 

 

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 24/7
Address: 81, Wolmimunhwa-ro, Jung-gu, Incheon
Admission: Free! :D

Day 3 - Gangwon Province, South Korea

Taking the Chuncheon Foreign Tourist Taxi

I was Group Leader, which means I had to pose with the driver for a photo. :D

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

The Chuncheon Foreign Tourist Taxi is a chartered taxi service which brings foreign tourists around to major hotspots in a hop-on/hop-off style.

The base fare is about 20,000 Korean Won, or roughly RM70. That'll last three hours, and the drivers will bring you to a different spot every hour. If you feel like you wanna spend a little more time, say, an hour more, you can just 'top up' and pay an extra 10,000 Korean Won (~RM36). :)

As the tag above says, the Foreign Tourist Taxi really is an easy way to enjoy Chuncheon. Not only do you get to enjoy the views while transiting to each hotspot, you'll also get to relax and enjoy the super-comfortable rides! 

Unlike regular taxis, the Foreign Tourist Taxi lets you sit in a super-slick executive sedan. If you've got heavy bags that you won't necessarily be needing to bring to every single stop, you can just leave them in the taxi. The drivers are extremely friendly, approachable, and can understand English. 

 

First stop - Soyanggang Skywalk, Chuncheon

The Soyanggang Skywalk is a glass walkway that allows visitors to 'walk over water' due to the transparent panels that make up its floor. Reaching 150 metres in length, you'll get amazing 360º views of Uiamho Lake with people on cute little paddle boats and even speedboats! 

You can also pose for a photo on this 3D ground mural at the entrance. :)

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

 

Second stop - Organic Farming Cafe, Chuncheon

Grapefruit juice on a nice, sunny day.

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

Located in the Sinbuk area of Chuncheon, the Organic Farming Cafe is an ABSOLUTE MUST VISIT if you're ever around the area. The cafe itself serves homemade drinks made from local, organic produce, making it a great spot to just soak in the wonderful, expansive views of farmland.

As you can see, I was trying to pose for a romantic photo.

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

The best part about this cafe is perhaps what's next to it - a field of pink muhly grass! You'll only be able to see the pink muhly during Fall. When it's Spring, you'll get to see a field of canola flowers instead. Of course, if you want to have the best experience, the pink muhly season is the best time to come. Do make sure to plan strategically, though. It can get super crowded!

 

Third stop - Soyanggang Dam

wow.

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

Located at the Soyang River, the Soyanggang Dam is a seriously beautiful spot to visit during sunset. I was told it was also the spot where RM (of BTS) made a stop on his solo trip. :)

I was one of the very few non-influencers, hehe.

Image via Ariff Sopian | AirAsia

Just further down the road from the dam is a jetty from which you can set off on a 10-minute ride to the foot of Obongsan Mountain. From there you'll be able to hike up to Cheongpyeongsa Temple.

Be careful, though. The hike features a lot of steep inclines, and some sections of the trail aren't paved. It's highly recommended to bring comfortable walking shoes, since the journey to the top by foot will take about an hour. 

 

Dinner - When in Chuncheon, dakgalbi dinners are never a bad idea

Are you drooling yet?

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

After a long hike up Obongsan Mountain, we rewarded ourselves with a hearty portion of dakgalbi. To say it was delicious would be a severe understatement. It's dakgalbi done right! 

It wouldn't be fair to say that this was the best dakgalbi in town, since there are so many places that serve the dish. But it was certainly the best dakgalbi I've ever had in my entire life. :)

Day 4 - Gangwon Province, South Korea

Fulfilling my childhood dream at Alpaca World

What a bunch of cuties.

Image via Ariff Sopian | AirAsia

Situated up in the green forest of Hongcheon, Alpaca World is one of the most magical places in all of South Korea because of one thing - alpacas, duh. Not only do you get to pet and feed them, you also get to take them on short walks!

I ran out of kibble before I got to these guys. :(

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

It's also the only place in the entire country where you'll be able to find alpacas at all. But aside from alpacas, you'll also be able to get up close with some rabbits, horses, and even free-roaming goats. :D

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm daily, Ticketing counter closes at 5pm
Address: 310, Pungcheon-ri, Hwachon-myeon, Hongcheon-gun, Gangwon
Admission: 15,000 Korean Won (RM53)

 

Marveling at the beauty of the Hongcheon Gingko Tree Forest

This Gingko Tree Forest is a unique place to visit when you find yourself in Hongcheon. Privately owned by a South Korean man, it's said that he planted all these Gingko trees on his land to help out his wife (who suffered from chronic indigestion) in her healing process. Talk about true love. 

It was closed off to the public up until 2010, when the owner finally decided to let visitors in after the place had grown immensely popular through word-of-mouth. The best part is, admission is totally free!

The owner also decided to open his gingko forest in the month of October only. He made this decision so visitors could enjoy the golden Autumn hues of the trees. So thoughtful. :)

Here are the details:
Opening hours: Every October, 10am to 5pm
Address: 686-4, Gwangwon-ri, Nae-myeon, Hongcheon-gun, Gangwon
Admission: Free :D

 

Day 5 - Gangwon Province, South Korea

Taking a cable car up to Balwangsan Mountain in Pyeongchang

Located in the mountainous Pyeongchang region of Gangwon, the Balwangsan Mountain cable car is Asia's longest, spanning 7.4km long! The journey from start to finish will take about half an hour, and the best part about the ride is the fact that you can play your music via Bluetooth in the cable car itself! 

It was really misty that morning, so we didn't really get much of a view. But it was still nice. I honestly thought these life-sized cutouts (above) of Joon-sang and Yoo-jin from the hit K-drama Winter Sonata were real people! If you've never watched Winter Sonata, your mum probably has. No, really. :')

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 9am to 8pm daily
Address: 232-950, 715, Olympic-ro, Daegwanryeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon
Admission: 18,000 Won, roundtrip (RM64)

 

Getting my fair share of street food at Gangneung Jungang Market

We were given special Gangwon-only coupons that resembled real Korean bank notes! But they aren't your run-of-the-mill cash vouchers. You can use it on literally anything in Jungang Market, and if you spent anything less than the value of the voucher, you get REAL cash change. Yaaas, don't mind if I do. ;D

Croquettes are some of the most famous offerings in Jungang Market, coming in a variety of flavours. Being a true, red-hot Malaysian, I opted for the spicy chilli croquette. Don't let its relatively non-spicy look fool you. These things are hot AF, but seriously good. 

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 8:30am to 9pm daily
Address: 21, Geumseong-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon
Admission: Free

 

Off to the famous BTS Bus Stop in Jumunjin Beach, Gangneung

Made famous by BTS' 'You Never Walk Alone' album cover, the BTS Bus Stop is a must-stop (hehe) location when you're in Gangneung. After it grew more popular, the city of Gangneung designated it as an official tourist stop, allowing visitors to take photos at the iconic location. But once you're in Jumunjin Beach, the bus stop shouldn't be the only thing to look at!

It's always nice to have photographers on the trip :D

Image via @zippyzipeng | Instagram

The beach itself is a sight to behold, and the small patches of forest beyond the sand make awesome photo spots when the sun is setting, as is evident above. ;)

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 6am to 12am
Address: 210, Jumunbuk-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon
Admission: Free

 

Pretending to be a Goblin without a bride at the Jumunjin Breakwater

We headed to the Jumunjin Breakwater, location of the famous scene in the hit K-Drama Goblin, in which the Goblin met his bride for the first time. Of course, people flock to the breakwater to re-enact that scene, but since I'm just a bride-less Goblin, I stood there awkwardly. :)

Though it can get a little dicey when the waves hit the breakwater, you just gotta use common sense and be careful. 

The perfect example of how suddenly things can change. ;D

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

A word of caution, do not sit on the rocks! Though they do make good photo opportunities, they can be quite dangerous due to the strong waves. Don't say I didn't warn you, k?

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 24/7
Address: 1609, Haean-ro, Gangneung-si, Gangwon
Admission: Free

Day 6 - Gangwon Province, South Korea

Having a delicious breakfast at Anmok Coffee Street

The city of Gangneung is obsessed with coffee. Anmok Coffee Street itself is lined with a ton of coffeeshops, including Longbread Cafe (above), facing Anmok Beach. It's super chill, and the interior of the cafe is designed to let as much light in as possible, evident with the giant circular opening on its front facade. 

I had a club sandwich with some coffee. It's honestly the perfect way to start the day, especially with the view of Anmok Beach and the cool, salty sea breeze permeating the air. TAKE ME BACK, PLEASE!!

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 8am to 12am daily
Address: 10, Changhae-ro 14beon-gil, Gangneung, Gangwon
Admission: Free

 

Pretending to be Korean royalty at the Ojukheon House

As you can see, we look like bosses.

Image via Danial Martinus | SAYS

The Hanbok is Korea's traditional costume, coming in all the colours of the rainbow. It's got a relatively slim top with a wide bottom, making a sort of bell shape. The Hanboks that we got to wear were pretty special though. They were ROYAL Hanboks, meaning, they were only worn by royalty and nobility back in the day. 

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm daily, ticketing counter closes at 5pm
Address: 24, Yulgok-ro 3139beon-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon
Admission: 3,000 Korean Won (~RM10)

 

Taking a sea train from Gangneung to Donghae

Similar to the Wolmido Sea Train, this train's tracks straddle the eastern coast, running on a 58km track from Gangneung Station all the way to Samcheok Station. We got off at the third stop, Donghae.

Formerly a bustling fishing town, Donghae now caters more towards domestic and international tourists with its many murals hidden in hillside paths and alleys.

The murals themselves are located in a little enclave called Nongoldamgil, and they tell the story of the town's history as a representative port for pollack and squid. It's a great place to just catch some fresh air, get coffee in one of the many cafes, and take lots of pretty ocean photos.

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 24/7
Address: 2, Nongol 1-gil, Donghae-si, Gangwon
Admission: Free

Day 7 - Gangwon, South Korea

Visiting the Goseong Unification Observatory near the DMZ

On our last full day in Korea, we headed to the Goseong Unification Observatory in Sokcho. The place itself was built by a Korean army unit in 1983 and used as an observation post. Though there are many places observation decks along the border between the two Koreas, the Goseong Observatory is one of the most modern ones, complete with gift shop and a great view of some North Korean mountains. 

Our tour guides telling us about the geography of the area. :)

Image via Ariff Sopian | SAYS

Posing for a photo in front of a peace monument. :D

Image via Ariff Sopian | SAYS

Here are the details:
Opening hours: 9am to 4:30pm daily
Address: 457, Hyeonnae-myeon, Goseong-gun, Gangwon
Admission: 3,000 Korean Won (~RM10)

Thank you so much AirAsia X for taking us on this amazing trip. I'm definitely going back. :D

Being the most preferred airline connecting to all the places mentioned in this story, AirAsia X flies to Seoul-Incheon Airport twice daily from Kuala Lumpur. Also, air fares start from RM389* one-way for BIG members. Whether you want to fulfil your K-pop dreams or find yourself an oppa, everything's possible with AirAsia X.

*For bookings from now until 1 December 2019, for immediate travel to June 2020.